I was searching for a poem. I really wanted one
and it was getting not exactly dark but green and pale
a luminous sky just before night and I’d looked in all
the usual places e.g. weather the season, even love
and so on, but all that appeared was this pig,
a kune kune called Millie. She was asleep
in her stable on a bed of straw and covered
with a Mexican blanket. She shared the shed
with well-stacked logs from a peach tree.
The sound she made was the rhythm of snore in,
then air let go. I liked that but it was not a poem,
nor when she got her bulk up over her small feet,
those splayed cloven high-heeled hooves.
How small her eyes were, how rough her skin.
How the long hairs were white and black and spare and coarse.
Her mouth over strong yellow teeth was small and mean.
Her eyes were hidden in the folds of her face, her pale lashes.
And there was no poem in her food in a stainless steel bowl,
just bits of cabbage and carrot and white bread and tomato,
nor in her snuffling selection, her approval in sounds.
So there was no poem to be found in the usual places,
nor in the strange ones. It was the day of the pig
and a week before the year of the sheep.
Rachel Bush was born in Christchurch on Boxing Day 1941. She grew up and went to school in Hawera. Her first work appeared in student publications when she was at the University of Canterbury and then in Faber’s Introduction series. In the 90s she began to write poetry rather than prose. Since then she has been published in many New Zealand journals such as Sport, Landfall, the Listener, Takahe and in electronic journals including Turbine and 4th Floor. Her work has appeared in various anthologies. In 2006 she was resident poet at Wellington Hospital. Nice Pretty Things and others (Victoria University Press, 2011) is her fourth book of poems. She has lived in Nelson since 1978 with her husband, musician Richard Nunns. She is now retired from teaching, but for most of this time she taught English at Nelson College for Girls.
Bush comments: ‘When I was fifty-four, because there didn’t seem much point in waiting around any longer to begin, I started having lessons in classical singing. At my teacher’s house in the country I liked the singing and liked too the cockatoos, the dogs, the ducks, the hens and the kune kune pig. I liked watching and hearing this pig. I liked scratching her dry back. I looked forward to being in her strong presence while I waited for each lesson.
‘Sometimes writing comes easily. Often it doesn't. Sometimes I find a good place to begin is by working out what is very immediate that preoccupies or obsesses me. Like an engaging pig with a strong personality, an impressive girth and an attitude of amiable indifference to me. I wanted to focus on the ordinary reality of the life of this pig and also suggest a quality about her that I can only describe as a kind of unreachable otherness.’